A couple of years ago, my friend Jim Stone and several others readers sent me a remarkable video about Henry. At the time of filming, he had been 10 years living in a nursing home in dementia care - listless, unresponsive and as one person says in the video, hardly alive.
Then he was given a iPod filled with music from the era of his youth. Watch what happened:
Henry's life was changed due to the efforts of social worker Dan Cohen to bring iPods full of music to dementia care homes throughout the United States and Canada. The results are remarkable. As explained on Cohen's website, Music and Memory,
”...our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.
“Even for persons with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall. For individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, memory for things — names, places, facts — is compromised, but memories from our teenage years can be well-preserved.
“Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.”
Today, 18 July, a movie about Cohen's efforts to bring music to millions of dementia patients opens in cities around the United States. It is titled Alive Inside and it reveals the power of music to restore a measure of life, memory and pleasure to people who have been semi-comatose.
This is the official Alive Inside trailer.
There is a list of opening dates and venues in various U.S. cities for the movie at the Alive Inside website.
At the website for Dan Cohen's Music and Memory nonprofit organization, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to help bring music to more dementia patients, and you can read about the research and science behind the music that is changing the lives of patients and their caregivers.
As I was writing this story, it occurred to me that perhaps among all the papers we have for end-of-life issues, we should all make a list, or even a thumb drive, of the music we loved in our youth and listened to throughout our lives so that should dementia become our fate, caregivers would not need to guess.
This is a local news story showing how music has affected the lives of some residents in care home in Pennsylvania:
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Mack: Dinner With Mom